Op/Ed: Barbara Banke

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Barbara Banke | Stonestreet Photo

My family and I are invested financially and emotionally in the future health of the horse racing business. I'm proud of what we've accomplished at Stonestreet. We've built a top-notch Thoroughbred business, with the same tenets that helped build a top-notch global wine business. Whether it's wines that outperform their competition or horses running in the best stakes races in the world, I've learned how to market complex, high-quality products in a competitive and increasingly crowded market.

To win in the long-term, we must demonstrate to both existing and future racing fans that our industry acts with integrity and elevated standards of care to protect the health of our athletes. The morass of conflicting state medication thresholds and rules is too confusing and slow to change. We must achieve comprehensive reform that is meaningful both to horse owners and the general public. We would benefit significantly and immediately if we standardized best practices across our industry in medication, regulation, and testing. We must make ourselves easy to identify as well organized and responsibly self-governed. We should pool resources and add centralized promotion, crisis management and public relations efforts to our endeavors.

As a businessperson, I know that change is constant, and it comes at us with ever-increasing speed. I admit that I am not a patient person, but I know that our industry does not have the luxury of time to waste. A robust future is available to us in an increasingly global business environment, but we must foster consumer confidence.

Though we've made tremendous strides, we need to chart a course that drives creative thinking and innovation. As we navigate an increasingly competitive business landscape, it is imperative that we capitalize on the opportunity to change. Let's successfully compete for today's entertainment and wagering dollar. Whether it is the sport of kings or crafting the nectar of the Gods, an industry cannot survive, let alone thrive, if it stands still.

Some may say that the horse industry does not need more regulation. I say that we need to replace the patchwork of conflicting medication regulations and standards with a single comprehensive scheme that will enhance public trust of racing. A centralized and undeviating program with shared standards will afford us economies of scale, efficiencies, promotional opportunities, and strength when facing common obstacles.

Opportunities are easier to realize when we work together. Let's set the stage for us to communicate to the public the story of how American legends are created on the racetrack with integrity and authenticity. We have a great deal to celebrate about the sport of racing, but we must build a strong, unified voice. We must craft our narrative and rebuild the foundation of integrity to establish trust with audiences old and new.

The age we live in is not the age we leave behind. Each day we wait is opportunity wasted. We are blessed to work with the most majestic and athletic creatures on earth, driven by their singular passion–winning. Our equine community is fueled by that same competitive spirit. As an industry, we have much to be proud of and a future that should be robust and promising. I believe that adopting national standards and national best practices is essential to elevating perception and marketing efforts across the industry.

I spoke many of these words at the 2017 Jockey Club Round Table. Two years later, we find ourselves facing a crisis and our foremost concern is whether our beloved industry will have any place in America's sporting landscape.

When other countries promote their racing programs in American publications with the tagline “Race where racing still matters” I imagine we all agree that we must be more successful educating the public and promoting our sport. If we start with a topic which we all agree upon, perhaps it will pave the way for further collaborations. The organization which placed that advert in the Apr. 15 Thoroughbred Daily News was AusHorse, which is partly funded by a percentage of bloodstock sales in Australia. I sold nearly $20,000,000 of yearlings in 2018 and would be happy if a portion of that were used nationally to promote Thoroughbred racing in North America, and the American Thoroughbred across the globe, by a centralized promotion and public relations entity. I call on breeders, owners, trainers, consignors, sales companies, race tracks, ADW's, and every business that plies their trade in Thoroughbred racing to join me.

Together, let's build a formidable future for the remarkable Thoroughbreds that we all love. If you are interested in collaboration, contact [email protected].

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